Rolls Royce Begins Building Its Biggest Engine Yet

Rolls Royce has begun construction of its largest engine yet. The UltraFan engine should allow Rolls Royce to define new standards for engine sustainability in addition to efficiency.

Rolls Royce, Qantas, Boeing 747
Rolls Royce has acquired one of Qantas’ retired Boeing 747 aircraft. Photo: Rolls Royce

Engines have come a long way throughout the history of aviation. I personally remember looking at small engines on aircraft at London City Airport years ago. Now, aircraft such as the Airbus A380 have engines so big that you can stand in them. In fact, the new GE9X, which powers the Boeing 777X, is wider than the fuselage of the Boeing 737. Now Rolls Royce is building its largest engine ever.

The UltraFan

Rolls Royce has now started to construct its largest engine to power commercial aircraft. The UltraFan. The English Engine expert has begun to manufacture the turbine blades for the giant engine. The blades are made from a composite material and have a diameter of 140 inches. These are the first components to be manufactured for the company’s demonstrator engine.


The blades, which are being manufactured at Rolls Royce’s Bristol technology hub, will help the UltraFan to redefine efficiency standards. According to the engine manufacturer, the first generation UltraFan will be 25% more fuel-efficient than its Trent counterpart.

Rolls Royce, UltraFan, construction
The huge UltraFan will redefine engine efficiency and sustainability. Photo: Rolls Royce

What sets the UltraFan apart?

So what sets the UltraFan apart from the current generation of Trent engines? The engine has a brand new core architecture which increases its efficiency while lowering emissions. The engine also has components that allow it to run at higher temperates aiding efficiency. Finally, UltraFan has a geared design that promotes a high-thrust, high-bypass ratio.

Rolls Royce has the ability to scale the thrust of the engine from 25,000 pounds of thrust to four times that at 100,000 pounds of thrust. The UltraFan will be tested at Rolls Royce’s new Testbed. While not being constructed just for testing the UltraFan, testbed 80 will be large enough to test the huge engine. Simple Flying visited the testbed under construction last year.

Rolls Royce, Qantas, Boeing 747
Rolls Royce is currently constructing Testbed 80 at at cost of £90 million. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Rolls Royce estimates that ground tests for the new engine will commence sometime next year (2021). The manufacturer expects that the engine will be available towards the end of the decade. However, prior to then, the UltraFan will also be tested in Rolls Royce’s new Boeing 747 engine test aircraft.

The former Qantas aircraft was delivered to the Engine Manufacturer at Moses Lake in October last year. After the ceremonial keys to the aircraft were handed from Qantas to Rolls Royce work began to convert the 747 into a high tech flying engine testbed. This conversion, being performed by AeroTEC, is expected to take around two years, meaning that 1/8th of the work should be complete.

What do you think of the Rolls Royce UltraFan? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


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First comment, what’s bigger this or GE9X


This will definitely be bigger, it’s Rolls-Royce’s biggest one yet


What aircraft will this be used on? 777 future option?


Almost certainly an “A350 neo”. This is a geared turbofan, with the gearbox by Liebherr Aerospace. It seems not so long ago (im date stamping myself) that Rolls Royce went broke in early 70sover the delays on its RB211 turbofan. The ambitious engine carbon fibre composite fan had trouble bypassing bird strike tests and they had to revert to titanium. Now composites are the norm.


Given its scalability from 25,000lbs to 100,000lbs all current aircraft, except that MAX (not enough ground clearance), are candidates so long as thy can take the fan diameter. A220, A320, A330, A350, B787, B777, MC21, COMAC 919 and 929.

Tango Alpha

Oh, it would be nice if Simple Flying could learn to spell Rolls-Royce in the right way. With a hyphen! That hyphen even has a name, Claude Johnson – the man who in 1904 in Manchester brought together Rolls and Royce.

Greg Hiller

It would seem to be a terrific initiative. I wish R.R. well

High Mile Club

All i can say, is that Rolls Royce better hope they don’t make the mistakes they did with the trent 1000. They coasted through their crisis with the XWB, but their brand for reliability was hurt by their 1000 problems. They’ve lost enough market share to GE already.


They’re not hoping. The new x-ray equipment they have provided their engineers is so sensitive and precise it is equal in precision to detecting a small tumour in a human at 1.5km. This will let them detect any microscopic flaw. The TRENT TEN replaced the 1000 years ago but issues on longer hours Trent 1000 have caused considerable misery.

Gerry S

They keep making engines bigger and soon all a/c will have topsides wing placement.

Hein C Vandenbergh

Well, Rolls Royce is very good at making outrageous claims, but generally fails to deliver: see probs with current Trents on 787. An ongoing problem they do not seem to be able to resolve despite many patchwork ‘fixes’. Also, VERY POOR MANUFACTURING CONTROLS came within a gnat’s whisker of bringing down a Qantas A380 ex-SIN. It was only amazing airmanship – of a co-incidentally augmented crew – which saved its 500 or so crew and PAX. Rolls Royce, you’re standing in it!


From RR website:
2019 priorities “Diversity & inclusion”. That’s your ticket. Quality is not top priority.


And if you look at the “Our Principles” section of Boeing’s website they also don’t mention “Quality”. Get your head out your rear and understand that just because they don’t say it explicitly doesn’t mean that they don’t care. I work for a tier one supplier to Rolls-Royce so I know the rigorous approval, audit and testing regime that engine components go through. If you think that you are an authority on design and production management then I would invite you to apply for a job at RR.


There is no current real Trent 1000, it was replaced by the Trent TEN which is essentially unaffected though preventative precautions were taken.

Nate Dogg

They are not making ANY outrageous claims. They have been quite honest about their issues with the T1000. They made no outrageous claims for the Trent XWB or the Trent T7000. So far Rolls have tested this new fan on existing Trent XWB architecture and the next step is testing on the new geared turbofan architecture. All you yanks slagging off RR will soon be clearing egg off your faces. They are in no rush bringing this to market and will be sure they get it right. They have XWB orders well past 2025 and the A320 series is ordered… Read more »

Farhan Nazar

Will this one have Multiple failures in a month also? 😆

Gerry S

All you experts ought to apply for employment at engine manufacturers. These guys employ the best of us to design and manufacture the most advanced power-plants in the world. They utilize the best of current technology and experience small hiccups along the way because it is a NEW tech. Eventually they get it right and produce great products. All this uneducated criticism is uncalled for. If you can do better, go work for them and show them how it is done. Otherwise, quit casting stones.

David C.

I have a ton of respect for this comment.. Just sayin.


Indeed Gerry !
Respect for this comment !


Thank you for this comment. I work for a tier one supplier for RR and know the rigorous nature of the approval, audit and testing regime that they put us under. SF seems to have a problem with armchair engineers and managers who seem to think that every new bit of technology can be made flawlessly every time. Geared engines are a crapshoot due to the increase in moving parts causing a much greater number of points of failure.


I agree Gary👍


You know what unsettles me about Rolls Royce? Their engines rotate clockwise..


Please get a grip.

Alfred Mu8

Way to go. Looks exciting

David Bromell

All very well starting the new engine. What about fixing the problems with the Trent 100 variant.

Dean Albertus

Maybe they could be used on the A380, making the plane viable again


The problem with the A380 is that it is too big. The thing could be more efficient than a Dreamliner and still no one would buy it. Outside of long-haul routes between large cities, the plane is useless. Emirates, the one airline that could make use of the A380, has also given up on it somewhat, ordering A350s and 787s instead of more 380s. This just shows that frequent, lower-capacity flights are the future. The engine could, as someone else pointed out, be used on an A350neo, or perhaps an A350-1000 stretch. Sadly, the A380 just isn’t something that airlines… Read more »

Steven W

Rolls-Royce is an engine manufacturer with a proud and honorable history. Today it makes some of the most reliable and efficient airplane engines in the world. The Trent XWB is proving to be a stellar product with the highest reliability of any newly introduced engine and fuel efficiency way beyond expectations. They have had major problems with the Trent 1000 and the even the TEN version has some durability issues. They are solving those problems and for the 1000 it is now a matter is upgrading the fleet – a significant and expensive task. The TEN solution is promised for… Read more »


Maybe resurrect the A380, made of composite materials (lighter) and slap on 2 of these UltraFans with modified wings and call it the A380 neo…and not forgetting the mask of zorro..of course.


Could not the same be done with the B747?
Both the B747 and the A380 are delightful aircraft. Does it not seem logical to update them if and where possible?


Twin engine A380s and 747s perhaps?


I object to the ‘English Engine Expert’ bit, RR is a British registered company and not an English company!

Nate Dogg

Actually first and foremost it IS an ENGLISH company that was founded and incorporated in England by Englishmen. But since we are in a 4 nation union we call it British. Companies registered in Scotland have slightly different laws to adhere to.

Sri Iesan

I am a full supporter of the Rolls Royce family from day one when I started education with aviation. I am sure they have the capability to create a new engine for the future and show the world who is the one based on safety .Thanks

Phil Shipp

Sounds like GE has a big jump on RR with the GE9X

Nate Dogg

You’ll find by 2025-6 that the GE9x will be pretty much obsolete when this thing arrives on the market. The GE9x is in a very niche and uncertain market on 1 airframe. This will be across many airframes. Time to tuck some money away in those downtrodden RR shares.

Brian Henry Krumm

Bigger thrust, lower emissions and better fuel efficiency will undoubtedly lead to further and longer flights

Robin Powell

Larger area for bird strikes,but good luck to RR.

Rajat Mukarji

The size of the engine would imply an over the wing placement and hence a radical change to the current aircraft designs.


Would be interesting to see. Will the landing gear get longer, or will the engines go elsewhere? Perhaps an MD-80/CRJ-like rear-mounted engine configuration? Or maybe we’ll see more high-wing airliners like the Avro RJ, where the higher wing would allow for much bigger engines?

V.Uma Shankar

Coupled with matching airframe design will be a winner.

V.Uma Shankar

Coupled with matching airframe design will be a winner.


Aren’t there problems with the Trent engine ? Fix these first before going with a new mega-engine.


They need to start now as these engines take years to design and test


Due to the hydrogen engine technologies I think this hugh engine will arrive to the market too late.

Gary Hughes

Maybe they should solve the problems with Trent and those engines before they bite off more then they can chew.

Gary Hughes

Rolls-Royce engine sin cause so many problems for the 787 and Lord knows how many other chats general electric it’s got the engine requirements covered 4 Boeing triple 7

The epic chicken

That engine looks like it has rbg


the picture of the bigger engine on the 747 reminded me of the B52 equipped with a new 747 engine being tested in Hartford. Conn. in 1969. A pilot told us they had to run the 4 port engines at 100% to match the one engine at 80%.